How to Manage Startup Culture in a Corporate World

March 7, 2014

6:00 pm

There’s a poorly-kept secret in “new business” that the key to being successful is to be autonomous. This is not strictly true.

The people who are able to raise a startup from nothing to something are people who can lead themselves, need barely any direction or feedback, and are able to
see tasks to fruition with little outside interaction required. We’ll call these people “Bob.”

Once a startup becomes a company, however, these type of people are often not useful to the new structure, and there can be some friction or growing pains with the transition. Non-startup-minded employees need clear direction, more feedback, and more direct interaction. We’ll call these people “Farrah.”

Bob may be more likely to become a “serial startup” person, leaving when a venture becomes a company to start something new. He enjoys the erratic hours, the constant changes in roles, and the general risk involved.

Farrah, conversely, will not join a venture until it has become a company, safe in the knowledge that she will be given a set of clear tasks that she can complete and go home.

There’s nothing wrong with either role – they’re both necessary for a company to succeed. However, if you’re not sure which type a person is, it’s extremely easy to spot:

Random Person at Company: “Hey, I’m looking for some help with this project I’m doing.”

Bob: “Sure, sounds awesome! Let me make some time to help you.”

Farrah: “That’s not my job.”

Knowing which kind of employee a person is allows you to know how to manage them properly. If she is a Farrah, she will most likely be very dependable for her defined tasks – so be sure to clearly define them. If he is a Bob, you have to be very careful that he does not take on too many things just because they are new and interesting.

When a company is young, there are many tasks that need to be done; however, by the time you have both Bob and Farrah at your company, you will need to be sure that you truly understand the value of each employee on your team.

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Heather has programmed microcontrollers for the Navy, worked on NASA projects, been a Flight Attendant, designed and managed online games for some major licenses, run HR departments for small business and 5000+ employee companies, and managed the support system at Evernote since it was just a standalone app. Follow her @heathriel

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